Tuesday, February 9, 2016

7788. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 158)

(pt. 158)
I always wanted to, I think anyway, just be
an ordinary person. That was the tallest order
I could come up with, as it turned out. My life
was, instead, a sort of treadmill. Try as I might,
getting out of it was not to be easy. Careers
were always beckoning. So many others seemed
intent on their goals, knowing just what they
wished to be  -  journeymen lawyers, corporate
guys, salesmen, all the rest of success as it could
be. About 1967, I even turned down what most
probably was the best offer I'd ever see : my
girlfriend's father was the United Airlines Ramp
Manager at Newark Airport. He offered me the
job, no strings, starting as bottom and offering
me all the workings up through the ranks and
all that as it went along. Good, union job, 'benefits'
(they always seemed to be a big thing in people's
minds), security, nice pay and personal stuff. I
turned it down, to the dismay of various people.
I guess it just meant that no one much saw anything
good coming out of me as high school ended and
this would be a step up. A 'livliehood.' Funny
word, that is  - it's something you're stuck with,
this living, and somehow a halfway decent job
of any sort seems to make people feel a lot better
about things. It's like, maybe, having nice socks
when any old socks will do really. Just ideas.
With me, if they only knew. I was already a long
moonshot away from any of that stuff  -  probably
a poor case of shortsightedness on my part. I
probably could have had a ton of money, retired
after 30 years, done all sorts of cool stuff, got 'free'
passes for flights, and the rest. It would have been
'shift' and 'night' work, at first, so I used that as
my excuse for a 'no'. The planes would come in,
and these guys, the ramp personell had about 45
minutes between flights to completely turn the
plane around -   empty and re-fill luggage carts,
food wagons, clean the interior, drop and dump
the chemical toilets, do some base maintenance,
freshen things up, and have it all filled and readied
for its next trip out, back to LAX or O'Hare or
whatever. It seemed, as I saw my girlfriend's father
go through all this, pretty stressful, and a lot of
drudgery too. Watching the clock, loading and
unloading people's junk, making sure stuff went
right, keeping the toilets fresh, food too. Whatever
the cost, I declined, and everyone just let it go.
Some people just seem to get comfortable with
things. I never could. There was always something
'other' about me  - some differing layer of an
interpretation of the world around me. Writer's
eyes. I was living somewhere else, in my way.
What was also funny was that I'd always watched the
sky. Avenel was a great spot for that  -  on the flyway
for Newark Airport traffic coming in over the ocean,
fairly low-flying at that point. When I was really
young, it was all the spare and plain, propellor planes
that would be constantly 'noising' by  -  and then, it
was, to be exact, 1957, when the very first 'Caravelle'
came to be. It was a startling sight. I think a French
plane, the Caravelle had slanted-back wings, and
instead of propellors on those straight-out wings,
it had like turbine things under the wings. Just a
completely different look, and sound too. I loved
it all, completely, when I began seeing them in the
sky. Wondrous stuff. A new world. I suppose anyone
else all caught up like that in planes and air traffic
would have jumped at the chance for airport work.
I guess. It didn't work that way for me. For any
number of reasons  -  my Avenel backyard had
been a wonderland of amazing things to me. The
trains rolling by, their plumes of spreading smoke,
them their electrification  -  no more smoke, no
more raging, black locomotives. The prison lands,
farms and fields and all that free access. And high
above, the planes. All sorts. I didn't see any reason
to make drudgery and sorrow from all that. Rather
just appreciate it as a life-force, and let it bring me
to somewhere else. Yes, my own travel-agent. Where
I actually went  -  writing, art, intellectual considerations,
philosophy, religion, ethics, design, subconsciousness,
literary history, earth science, language -  none of that
could bear up under the weight of the normal, crummy
world. And I knew that, that's why I strove to be away,
leave, get gone from all that. I simply could not and
would not throw away my gift as I saw and felt it
drilling in through my brain. That call had to be
answered. Take your money and your careers and
shove it. The happy-workman's job was never
to be mine, and I knew that.
I never heard any music in Avenel. Oh, I guess there
was some  - the usual church stuff, of course, and those
idiot people with their loud cars and radios in them
blasting, a forced and open invitation for everyone else
to have to listen. It was principally a busy, sad and
quiet place. No one seemed to do anything except
hunch over, afflicted by themselves by some
self-appointed and mostly stupidly unnecessary task.
All that civic stuff you do to mostly just please others :
lawn work, edging, trimming, over-cutting. Paint
and gutters, all that stuff. No thanks, I knew that
would never be for me. Lawns are ridiculous anyway.
The world is, and should be, one grand and happy
seed pod for growth and expansion. The tragedy of
lawns is that they're crazy-short cut for no reason.
A stalk of grass would only grow so high anyway,
a nice, pre-determined height (otherwise praised as
'amber waves of grain'), and then it stops growing
and crowns out as it seeds. They blow off and
spread themselves or are fed upon and spread
by birds. That's the natural world -  certainly not
your psychotic 1-inch stalk of tortured grass, due
for another cutting every 8th day by some nut-case
suburban homeowner with not a clue. Nope, none
of that for me. I went straight to the core  -  the heart
and soul of things as I saw it. Art and Creativity.
My very own world and language. Not too much
to communicate to Joe Schmo with, but I'd never
care about that.
It was the French Impressionists, really, in about
1865 (just the time when out own Civil War was
winding down  -  another strange, internalized
conflict about what the external world really was
or was not) who blew the lid of things. I studied
that, to be sure I knew what had occurred, or at
least what we were told about it as occurring. They
really twisted things up  -  psychological basket
cases, each, they brought forth an entirely new
way of approaching things, visually, but not
only visually. It was also very mental, and very
psychological. Taking things outdoors,
experiencing in place the real world around
them, inducing colors and textures, the changing
light and the atmosphere. All that was like smacking
people in the face  -  it was the equivalent of war.
They took their easels and crayons and pencils out
to the world, and painted it a'fresh. They were the
first painters to use paint in a tube, not mixing their
own from powder pigments in-studio. Sisley or
Monet or one of those guys was the first ever to
paint a smokestack, included in a painting. An actual
industrial instance! Quelle horror! They painted their
Postmasters! The everyday, ordinary people of their
surroundings. It was as if I'd found an 'Avenel' of
the art world  -  they lived in poverty, quarreled, 
stressed, hurt themselves, moaned and yelled.
Keep your silly airports! All planes grounded!

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